iPad Pro in early 2021 could begin Apple’s adoption of Mini LED

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2018 iPad Pro display
A Mini LED screen could make the 2021 iPad Pro look even better.
Photo: Apple

A 12.9-inch iPads Pro is reportedly set to become Apple’s first device with a Mini LED screen. It’ll supposedly be followed by a MacBook with the improved display technology in the second half of the year.

The large iPadOS tablet will be out “in early 2021,” according to Digitimes. This is about a year after the release of the 2020 iPad Pro, which would be an unusually quick replacement time. Apple’s top-tier tablets generally go 18 months before being replaced.

An earlier report indicated this Mini LED-enabled tablet will also have 5G cellular-wireless connectivity, following up on the first 5G-enabled iPhones expected this autumn. The next iPad Pro will also supposedly be built around an A14X processor, the same chip family being used in the 2020 iPad Air 4 and almost certainly in the iPhone 12.

Digitimes also reports that a MacBook with a Mini LED screen is coming in the second half of 2021. This is expected to be another high-end model. A previous report predicted both a 16-inch MacBook Pro and a 14.1-inch MacBook Pro with the new tech.

Reports that Apple is working on an iPad Pro and a MacBook with this improved type of display first emerged almost exactly a year ago. However, the release dates have slipped approximately six months since then.

Mini LED screens beat traditional LEDs

Apple uses very high-quality LCD screens in its tablets, laptops and desktops. OLED screens would look better, but remain prohibitively expensive. That’s why the company is exploring Mini LED.

An iPad or Mac shows images on an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) with LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) providing a backlight. As LCDs don’t glow, brightness is determined by the LEDs.

Mini LED screens have thousands of small LEDs providing the backlight, far more than in a standard LCD. That gives the computer much greater control over backlighting, so some on-screen objects can be brightly lit but others left dim.

That’s also possible with OLEDs, but Mini LED cost less. Once the bugs have been worked out, anyway.

Apple is reportedly seeking multiple companies to supply the mini LEDs. Epistar and San’an Optoelectronics are supposedly at the top of the list.